Language Matters: Stop Using The Word “Nazi” Lightly

Since I wrote my post on lactivism vs bullying and how they are not the same thing (a point a few readers missed, judging by their comments), I stumbled into a huge and volatile conversation–sometimes more of a screaming match. First of all, I just do not and will not understand why anyone object to breastfeeding activism as it most often works and is supposed to work. Here’s what it does: promote true facts about healthy breastfeeding, the health of breastmilk and offer support to women who have trouble with breastfeeding and promote more of what the AAP, in their latest report on breastfeeding, is not only calling a necessary good thing but also a public health crisis. There is a whole lot of detailed, solid science in support of babies consuming human milk, and it’s why I will turn to donor milk instead of formula in October (or November).

In case you missed it, the drugs that I find necessary to fight my anxiety and depression are probably dangerous to an infant; it might cause the baby to fall asleep and not wake up. This is not open for discussion. I don’t want your advice. I got about 5 “second opinions” and made my decision long ago. I’m just filling you in. Again, not asking for your advice on the topic.

Back to the topic at hand: breastfeeding activism aims at promoting true facts about infant nutrition. The point is most definitely not to make anyone who feeds a baby formula feel guilty. We are simply talking about supporting breastfeeding mothers, mothers who want to breastfeed, dads who are feeding expressed milk to babies and everything related to breastfeeding. It’s also about counteracting the manipulative message formula companies send with their ads and the free samples they push on families at hospitals and in doctors’ offices. It is not a true fact that formula is the same as breastmilk, nor is it true that formula is as healthy for babies. And here’s where we get into sticky territory. Understandably, there is often a clash between mothers who use formula and mothers who advocate for breastfeeding. Accusations fly in both directions. Breastfeeding activists who accuse mothers of being lazy or not trying hard enough? They have crossed a line from activism into just plain meanness and name-calling. Mothers who use formula exclusively or supplement with formula? Unless you have been the victim of meanness and name-calling, no one is trying to make you feel guilty.

I’d just like to point out that no one can make you feel anything. When I was bullied, I gave the bully the power to make me feel anger, sadness, grief, etc. Another woman might have just let it roll off her back. So if you feel guilty because of what someone says on the internet, especially if the writer is not addressing you personally, they are not making you feel guilty. You feel guilt, and that is valid. But breastfeeding activism is not about guilt. Guilt does no one any good. It leads to resentment and anger and more meanness and name-calling. And here is where I come to the point of this post:

The word “Nazi” does not apply to someone who is mean. It doesn’t apply to someone who calls you a name. Recently, in a comment, I read the word “Lazi” and got angry. Apparently, it’s ok now to combine “lactivist” and “Nazi” and make new words with which to continue the name-calling and hostility. The wonderful blog PhD in Parenting already covered why the term “Breastfeeding Nazi” is offensive and not ok:

First, lactivists have not killed millions of people like the Nazis did. …

Second, calling someone that is an enthusiastic advocate of something a Nazi trivializes and minimizes the suffering of the victims of the Holocaust. Even if you feel like you have been a “victim” of extreme lactivism, you cannot in good conscience compare that to the complete and utter horror that the Nazis carried out.

So stop. Please stop. It is not appropriate. Not funny.

Since the term “Breastfeeding Nazi” seems to have now evolved into “Lazi,” I feel that the point bears repeating: Stop. It is not ok. Under any circumstances that do not have to do with the genocide that took place during World War II.

What can you do instead? Talk about what you’re going through. Explain why you feel guilty, who called you a name and why it was wrong. Trust me. I did that–I talked about how hurt I felt when someone accused me of being a bad mother. And guess what happened? A whole slew of people came and rallied in support of me and my efforts to be the best mother I can be. Do not model name-calling for your children or your peers. Stop the cycle by talking about your feelings. I am not being patronizing; I am telling you that it works.

One Comment

  1. Hallfrieda said:

    Because language is more important than we sometimes realize, it is crucial not to misuse “Nazi.”  I couldn’t even bear to hear “soup Nazi” on Seinfeld.  It belittles the tragedy of the Holocaust and the war itself.  Stop using it.

    April 13, 2012
    Reply

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